Throwback Thursday: This Could be Paradise

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

With Matt’s birthday on the high seas, and the storm it brought with it, behind us, we continued to slowly trudge toward the Azores.  Riding  the southern route and it’s high pressure system, we were only averaging 500 miles a week.  So two weeks in and only 1,000 of 3,000 miles completed, we knew we would not be in for a speedy, or even average arrival.  Winds were averaging just under 5 knots and excitement would grow when they began to jump to 10.  The headsail would finally begin to fill and take shape, and our pace would pick up to nearly four knots.  Every time though, without fail, this would only last an hour before the next storm was on the horizon, edging closer and having us reef our sails once more, just in case.  It was a long and tiring routine, and one that had me sometimes questioning my mental state because it sometimes seemed like we’d be at sea until September.

The plan had been to take a direct route from Miami to Horta with no stops, even though Bermuda was on the way and would make a great retreat for a few days.  Both of us had decided early on though, especially since this was by far the longest passage we’d ever attempted to make (our previous one being 4 days), that any stops along the way would make it extremely hard to get moving again.  Due to all the delays we were having in Florida getting  ourselves ready for the crossing, we didn’t want our arrival in Europe to be delayed another few weeks.

Fate had it in mind though that we needed a break from our slow drift across the Atlantic, and the banging of our luffing sails we had to endure day in and day out.  Hurricane Andrew was just starting off the coast of the US, and although every prediction had it moving out to sea much further north than we were traveling, we didn’t want to take the chance.  Changing our route just a little further north, we set our sights on Bermuda.  Just after 24 hours after the decision was made, we were pulling into St. George’s Harbor and taking in all the stunning sights and smells around us.  We had found civilization again after 17 days at sea.

After getting a full nights rest and sleep, we went out the next day to explore an island that is truly paradise.

You can find the original post here.

Sunday June 30, 2014

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

I realized something a little strange this morning after waking up, making myself a cup of coffee, and sitting to savor it with my laptop resting on my legs while enjoying some top 40 tunes blast from the radio.  The luxury of being able to do all these things, after being deprived of them for the past 18 days, feels completely normal.  There’s no novelty (ok, maybe just a little bit) of making my morning mine, instead of waking up groggy and sitting on watch for the next for hours while trying to be as quiet as a mouse as not to disturb Matt while he sleeps.  The transition from passage to anchoring has been pretty seamless.

After saying that, let me tell you this.  We had no expectations of Bermuda upon arriving here. Or if we did, they weren’t very high. Neither of us had done any research on this island since we figured we’d never be visiting it, and the only knowledge I had of it was vaguely remembering bits and pieces from Brian and Stephanie’s visit here last year. We honestly expected it to be like the Bahamas. Dry, barren, and flat. You come for the water, but not for the land. Wow, we could not have been further from the truth. This island is amazingly beautiful, and we took a few hours today to explore the area around St. George, where we’re anchored.

Based on just a little bit of an internet connection that Matt was able to find us last night, I was able to look up and print a walking tour of the city to my desktop.  Reading through it I found this area is incredibly historic (of course, settled in 1609, it should be), an UNESCO World Heritage Site (woo hoo, another one checked off!), and had more than enough things to look at to keep us busy all day.  There were churches, town squares, museums, forts, beaches, and even a few restaurant recommendations where we could rest our weary feet at the end.  Yeah, like we can waste money on such frivolities.  Instead, I’d be hauling around a bag with a couple of sandwiches, granola bars, and a nalgene bottle full of water.

In true Jessica form, I managed to leave my sheet of copied ‘must see’ areas on the boat, and was forced to recount what I could from memory.  Sure we could still stumble upon whatever church or home was listed in the tour, but how could we look at it with the same kind of awe and reverence if we didn’t know who built it at what time, or exactly what purpose it stood?  Then I remembered we don’t always pay attention to those kinds of things anyway.  Normally just the year something was built, and most buildings should have plaques letting us know that information anyway.

The dinghy dock from St. George’s Harbor into town dropped us off right in the main town square, and just randomly picking a street right or left, we were drawn toward the brick paved allure of Water Street and proceeded to gape at the immaculate shops and restaurants that lined it.  Again, we were expecting an area that was to be just like the Bahamas, and unless you’re in an outrageously expensive resort there, all other areas tend to be a little run down and in need of some TLC.  This spot, however, was high class living, and just mere yards from where our boat was anchored out in the harbor.  No wonder all the hoity toity sailors of Newport, RI bring their boats here for holiday.

Water Street, St. George, Bermuda

 Finishing back out at the main road we pointed ourselves in the direction we had just come from, knowing that the beaches and forts were in that vicinity, and whatever else we passed along the way would just be a bonus.  We happened to stumble on a few bonuses, both in a religious background.  The first place we found was one of the major stops that had been listed on the walking tour, St. Peter’s Church.  We (I) may have left all information relating to this place back at the boat, but knowing their own importance, the church had plaques plastered from one end to the other, giving a full history.  Among many other interesting facts, we learned that this church was built in 1612 and is the oldest Anglican Church in the western hemisphere.  You could almost get a sense of early settlers attending service here, and I had a good time searching the grounds on the cemetery for the oldest headstone I could find.

Next on our walking tour to the beach was Bermuda’s Unfinished Church.  Getting back to our guide tonight I found out this church was started back in the 1870′s when St. Peter’s Church was damaged in a storm, and then gave me a link to click on to find out why it was never completed.  Thanks for the required 3G data plan to get any information, walking guide, I don’t have internet anymore! (I’ve now gone back and researched and found out it was likely not finished due to the local population wanting to repair the old church instead of building a new one.  This was decided half way through the build of the new one)  Having just walked up a decent sized hill in the blazing heat to get here, we used it as a resting spot to sit for a minute and down some water.  I wanted to get a few photos in front of it, but a (American) family that was doing the same thing never got the hint that I was patiently waiting my turn for a photo in front of it without them in the background, and ten minutes later I finally gave up and went around to the side, where I feel like I got an even better background.

St. Peter's Church, St. George, Bermuda

St. Peter's Church, Bermuda

unfinished church, St. George, Bermuda

Jessica & unfinished church, Bermuda

 Further up the road we continued to follow the signs for Tabacco Bay Beach, the only real goal of the day, where we were sent through a narrow street shaded by tall trees with meadows off to our side.  Seriously, this place just keeps getting better.  And waiting for us at the end of the road was this view of Tabacco Bay.

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

Definitely not what we had been expecting.  Pretty much running toward this oasis now we skirted through past all the tourist laying out on the beach and directly up to the rocks behind it.  The views here were amazing and we could have spent the rest of the day staring into the bay and the waters past it.  Families snorkeled through the shallow waters, while some of the parents waded through the bath like water with extremely expensive cocktails in their hand.  We heard one man tell his wife, who almost tripped while sifting through the water with a margarita in her hand, “Good thing you didn’t drop that, it could have been a $15 mistake”.  Now you can see why we packed our own lunch.

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

Matt at Tabacco Bay

 After our time spent staring out at the ocean, as if we haven’t had enough of that already, it was time to check out a few forts.  Just around the corner from Tabacco Bay is probably one of the more famous ones of the area, Fort St. Catherine.  At the time we were already getting a little worn out and didn’t feel like paying for the guided tour through it, but here’s what I found out about it when I was able to get a little internet again.  Originally built in 1614 for the purpose of defending from Spanish attacks, it has now been renovated at least five times.  The fort is surrounded by a dry moat and accessed by a drawbridge.  Which we actually did get a chance to walk over while checking out the outskirts of the fort, pretty cool.  Right next to the fort is St. Catherine’s Beach, another popular spot for those who don’t want to be packed into the tight quarters at Tabacco Bay Beach.

Fort St. Catherine, Bermuda

Even though we were starting to get a little tired by this point, from not having this much exercise in almost three weeks now, we stopped at a few more smaller forts that littered the coastline on our way back.  I swear, these things are everywhere on the island.  How often was this place under attack?

One of the forts that held a few impressive guns and cannons was becoming overrun with a group of school kids that arrived at the same time we did, so after checking out a few things here and there, we let them have full run of the place.  It’s nice to see kids actually get excited about a piece of history, and we didn’t want to get in their way.

The next one on the list was Gates Fort, which we had viewed from the water yesterday upon entering the cut into the harbor.  It’s a small little place, two stories high, but only about 150 sq feet on each floor.  There’s a small paved area in front with a short wall coming up two cannons facing out to sea.  I don’t know what it was about this place, but Matt fell in love with it.  As a potential home.  We literally spent 30 minutes as he wandered around talking about how we could decorate, keeping all of the current walls as not to tear down a part of history, but then adding to the top floor, combining wood and stone for a modern feel.  There would be tall glass windows giving 360 degree views, and we already had a ‘patio’ built that would only need an awning or some kind of sun protection.  It would be more than enough space for the two of us to live in, as even just one floor would give us more than we currently have.

I think he might be on to something here.  Now we just need to get into talks with the Bermudian government and take some very large donations from you readers to make this happen.

Matt in Bermudian fort

Just a little to the left.

Bermudian fort, entrance St. George's Harbor

 Visibly exhausted after only three hours of walking around, and with blisters already beginning to form, we followed the road back toward town, ready to hop on the dinghy and pass out on Serendipity for the rest of the afternoon.  One last treat in store for us though was the view of the harbor as we were coming back down the hill.  All the sailboats dotting the water with the historic town as the backdrop was almost postcard perfect.  So I took a photo to hopefully turn into one.  You can even make out Serendipity in it, to the far left.

Serendipity in St. George's Harbor, Bermuda

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Atlantic Crossing Part II Days 19 & 20: Fun with Moustaches

cat in fake mustache

Tuesday July 8, 2014

We finally made our escape from Bermuda yesterday. It was one of those things where we could have stayed forever, yet at the same time I was ready for a change of scenery. As much as I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of an 18 day passage, at best, it was time to go. We’d already gotten one extra day at anchor due to light winds and we couldn’t drag it out any longer.

We let ourselves sleep in one last time, and then with the dinghy still in the water, made our way to the market to do the smallest provisioning we’ve probably ever done in our lives. A head of lettuce, one cucumber, two tomatoes, and a five pound bag of rice. We assume this, along with the dozens of canned goods stashed in the boat, will last us to the Azores. Had we not bought the rice I might be a little worried, but if it comes down to it, I think we can live on that if necessary. Then it was back to the boat for me to finish up the last of the prepped meals and snacks so that once more, I don’t have to do any real cooking until my body gets used to the motion of the ocean. The chili was simmered, cooled, and contained, and then as the last chocolate chip cookie was making it’s way out of the oven, we were already getting the anchor up.

Our first stop on the way out was for fuel. Since leaving Miami we’d probably used about 20 gallons and we definitely wanted to fill them back up before we left.  It was hard to release my vice like grip while handing over the $7/gallon for our fill up, and even worse when I handed over a tip to the attendant, after he made me nearly fall off the boat trying to fish a dollar bill out of the water for him that had fallen out of his pocket. With that done and what’s probably going to be half of our monthly cost just spent on fuel, we were ready to head out into the wild blue yonder again.

Motoring out of the channel we had the main all raised and ready to pick up the 18 knots of wind that were waiting for us on the other side. Finally, some movement in our future! Shutting off the engine we cruised along at a mighty 6-7, although I have to imagine there was a bit of a current working in our favor. 18 days? If we can keep this up it’s going to be more like 12. And I can definitely handle that.

cookies for passage

Georgie on passage

Serendipity at 6 knots

 

Wednesday July 9, 2014

I think I may have mentioned back when we first started this crossing from Miami that we were given little gifts to open every few days from Matt’s mom, something to look forward to on our otherwise boring days. We had been really good with sticking with the dates of when to open our packages ‘Open on day Five, Open on day Twelve’, but when day Seventeen came around I decided to hold off. It was the day before we got to Bermuda and I was already extremely excited about that, so I figured I didn’t need the additional elation of a present at the time. I figured we’d wait until we’d been back on the boat a few days and push it back, opening it when day Twenty Two came around, therefore leaving ourselves the added cushion of extra presents when this crossing lasts over 37 days, if it happens to. Matt, ever the stickler for playing by the rules, did not like the fact that we did not open it when we were supposed to and as soon as he found out that we were now three (passage) days behind on opening it, forced me to dig into it earlier than I had planned.

Now, we love the stuff that’s been in our other packages: puzzle books, coloring books, stickers, ect. But this one happened to be right up my alley and totally made my day. It was full of beauty tween ‘beauty’ supplies that I’m just as thrilled to receive even now that I’m in my 30′s. Bright shaded crayons to color my hair, mud face masks, stick on nail art, and temporary tattoos. I could really have some fun with this. Rocking back to my early 90′s self, I can pull a Jennifer Gardner in ’13 Going On 30′ where I’ll have a full evening of pre-pubescent beauty routines where my hair will end up six different colors just to see what it looks like, and my nails will be Bedazzled to the point of suffering from temporary blindness any time the light hits them. The best part of it all is that I can actually look over to my husband and quote, “Matty!! Hey Matty, come here!!” as I get ready to break out my Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ moves. Geez, …I really need to stop with the obscure movie references.

One other thing that was included in the present, fun for the whole family, was a package of three stick on mustaches, each with a different theme or look.  There was the Rascal, the Outlaw, and another that Matt was quick to pop on his face.  I was doubled over laughing so hard that I barley had time to get the camera out to capture the moment.  I’m sure we wasted a good hour of our time as we peeled off and stuck on new mustaches, playing the roles of the different looks we were offered.  As Georgie followed us around the boat while we were in hysterics, we decided there was no way we could leave her out of the fun as well.  A cat with a moustache.  Hmmm….I might have to try the hair coloring crayons on her next.

Matt with fake mustache

Jessica with fake mustache

cat with fake mustache

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Last Days in Bermuda

Monday July 7, 2014

St. George Yacht Club, Bermuda

I’m going to kill my camera.  I really am.  Even though I’m the one I should be mad at since I’m sure it’s 100% my fault for not knowing how to work it properly.  First of all, ever since I got my new Sony NEX-5T back in Miami, I’ve been having issues where I need an update that I can’t get on Photoshop for it to read my RAW images.  So ever since our first stop in Bimini, I’ve been using JPEG photos on the site.  Not my number one wish, but whatever, it works for now.  At least I shoot in both and still have RAW images saved so I can go back to them later if I want.

The kicker for me is that last night we heard a celebration going on in the town square of St. George, so we went to check it out.  Bringing my camera in, and shooting in RAW and JPEG, I took some great photos, knowing that I’d be using the JPEGs to go up on the site.  Now I go back to them and get this error message: ‘Photo viewer doesn’t support this file format, or you don’t have the latest updates to Photo Viewer’.*  Come on!  It’s not like I have the easiest access to a good internet connection these dates to get those updates!  So, at the moment, I’ve had to go waaaay outside the box, taking screen shots of my RAW photos that I can only view on my computer but do nothing else with, paste them to Paint, save as JPEG, and then I can worth with them to edit or upload to the site.  Geez.  I really need to get my s#!t together and figure out this problem once and for all.

But..other than my issues with the camera, everything has been great here.  As I was mentioning, we went into the square last night when we heard a live band playing and wanted to see what the celebration was for.  Since a crowd was gathering around the yacht club we wandered over there as well and found the floor of the office decorated with intricate flower patterns and statues of Jesus placed here in there.  Then I remembered that when we had been walking around earlier we’d seen a procession of kids all dressed up, and thinking back to the elementary aged girls in their frilly white dresses, I put two and two together.  This must be an annual celebration for First Communion.

With all the church related stuff done for the day it was now time for everyone to party, and they were going all out.  In the center of the square was a large stage with a band playing, what had originally drawn us in.  It was a group of about five men playing covers of songs from the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s, and they were pretty good.  In front of the information center was a long tent with tables selling all kinds of food.  We had actually been up for buying something for once but found out we got to the party just a little too late and all the good stuff was sold out.  We could still buy beer or other drinks, but I had already packed a single serve wine in my purse to bring to the event with me.  Tee hee, my parents have taught me well.

When the music finished it was time to raffle off a Vespa, and Matt and I were caught quite off guard when the gentleman on stage began speaking in something that was definitely not English.  It was something that neither of us were familiar with, and after trying to pick out familiar sounding words here and there we finally gave up and asked a family who was sitting on the curb behind us, and they told us it was Portuguese.  Wow, it sounds a lot different than I expected it to.  Lots more shhhh sounds.  I always thought it would sound very French.  But it looks like something we’d better prepare ourselves for since the Azores are part of Portugal and we can foresee a lot more of it in the future.

St. George Harbor, Bermuda

St. George Yacht Club, Bermuda

band in town square

St. George town square, Bermuda

celebration in St. George Bermuda

 Although we originally planned on getting our butts in gear and leaving today, the weather was showing no kind of wind whatsoever.  So instead of bobbing around 10 miles outside of Bermuda waiting for it to fill in, we decided to do it comfortably at anchor.  Which also meant we had one more day on our hands to go have fun.  Wanting to enjoy Tobacco Bay once more, sitting out and enjoying the sun and water, we packed another bag today as well as our snorkel gear and made our way out there.

We had barley put our bags down on one of the flat black rocks surrounding the bay before we were grabbing out our snorkeling gear and getting into the water.  We hadn’t expected to see much in these waters, but even as soon as we got in there were a bunch of hand sized white fish with black dots on their tail that are hard to see unless you’re in the water because they blend in with the sand.  Wanting to see more though, we kicked between some of the rocks and out of the protected little bay into open water.  Although we hadn’t been expecting much in these areas either, we were pleasantly surprised to find an abundance of tropical fish out here, probably better than most of the areas we’d snorkeled in the Bahamas this year (with the exception of Bimini).

Staying close to the tall rocks, as that’s where any of these fish seemed to be, I could tell we were both silently cursing ourselves for not breaking our pole spear, although I’m not entirely sure if that’s allowed here.  I was having a great time out in the water, having not really enjoyed it for about two months now.  As I was thinking to myself, ‘This is absolutely perfect, and the best part is, there’s no barracuda lurking behind me’, I turned my head just in time to see, yup, a big ‘ol barracuda staring me down.  Damn it!, we can never seem to escape those things!

It wasn’t much longer after that when we swam back into the safety of the bay and I lost Matt for a bit when I became entranced watching a parrot fish that was almost as big as me.  When I did find him again he was skirting an area just below one of the tall rocks that people were jumping into the bay from.  Getting back to our spot on the rocks we had another lunch and relaxed a little before packing it in for the day.  Well Bermuda, you’ve been really good to us.  I think we’re going to miss you, unintentional stop.

Matt at Tobacco Bay, Bermuda

Tobacco Bay

Jessica at Tobacco Bay, Bermuda

 

*I just realized the issue of why I couldn’t get the photos from last night to come up in JPEG.  Because of my memory card swap, since my normal one stopped working in Hamilton, I had different photos with the same number when they uploaded.  The RAWs uploaded fine, but when the second set of JPEGs uploaded with the same number, it wiped out the first set.  At least that’s one issue figured out.

 

 

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Picturesque St. George Bermuda

Sunday July 6, 2012

St. George Bermuda

So we may have slipped back into our lazy habits of just sitting on the boat for the past few days, completing other small projects here and there, and still enjoying eight (or ten) hours of sleep each night.  But since I didn’t share all the amazing photos from our first tour of St. George, I figured now would be the perfect time.  Enjoy!

Water Street, St. George, Bermuda

St. Peter's Church, St. George, Bermuda

cemetery St. Peter's Church, Bermuda

unfinished church, St. George, Bermuda

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

Fort St. Catherine, Bermuda

Fort St. Catherine, Bermuda

random fort, St. George, Bermuda

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Hamilton, Bermuda

Friday July 4, 2014

Hamilton Bermuda

Image taken from here.

Can you believe that we got ourselves to the picturesque capitol of Bermuda today and the memory card on my camera decided it didn’t want to work for me?  When I didn’t have a backup along to switch it out to?  I swear…me and cameras this year.     But that’s not either here nor there, because I can just steal represent other photographs that I’ve found of the area online.

Even though this country is incredibly expensive and we’re trying to keep costs as low as possible, we’d hate ourselves if we only saw the small area of St. George where we’re anchored.  Luckily there’s a visitor’s center just a few hundred feet from the dingy dock, full of brochures and bus schedules.  With the day passes ranking at $25, we started to wonder how even the locals can afford to live on this island, but we were still willing to pay the $4/person each way to get ourselves to Hamilton and back.

Stepping onto the empty bus at the very first stop along the line, we wound through the cute little towns and villages of Bermuda, picking up more and more people along the way and we passed gorgeous turquoise waters off to our side.  The city of Hamilton must have been a major destination for anyone between the two towns since we let no one off the bus, but only kept taking on more people until every seat was full and the aisle was crowed with people grasping to handles hanging from the ceiling.  Just as it felt like we could take on no one else without busting at the seams, we pulled into a populated metropolis that could be none other than Hamilton.  As we were let off at the main bus terminal, we randomly wandered down whatever street was in front of us, taking in the upscale buildings and parks that lay on each side.

Hamilton  Bermuda

Image taken from here.

The part of Hamilton we seemed to have found ourselves in was fairly upper class, mostly geared toward the tourists with offices sprinkled in between restaurants and bars.  Walking to a dead end we turned toward the water, and followed that street until we heard our stomach start grumbling and realized we forgot to pack a lunch and would need to find a suitable place to eat.  Or maybe I purposefully forgot to pack even as much as a granola bar, ensuring we’d have to go out to eat.  This place must have a McDonald’s right?  It’s now been four weeks since our last fix, and I wanted to make sure we got it while we were here.

Except, there was no McDonald’s!  What the??  That was almost the whole reason I came out to this side of the island.  Fear not though, we still got our greasy food fix.  Backtracking a little bit, and getting kind of lost in the process, we found the KFC we’d spotted after just getting off the bus, and rushed inside where Matt was able to pay $10 for a value meal, and I was just happy that the $5 kids meal was enough to fill me.  Fiddling with my camera a little more and cursing at it for still not reading or formatting to the memory card, I vowed to still take photos to my camera’s hard drive and pull them off later by connecting it to a USB.  (Spoiler alert, it didn’t work)

Since neither of us had made of plan or list of things to see that day, as we aimlessly wandered by the waterfront again we pulled out our guidebook that we’d picked up at the visitor’s center.  Matt thought that Fort Hamilton sounded cool, and since I wanted to see how they compared to all the ones we’d come across in St. George, I told him to lead the way.  Which actually wasn’t very clear on our map, and we may have gotten ourselves lost in a few residential areas before finding our way again.  Beautiful homes on this island though.  And all with blooming flowers that one just has to stop and sniff.

After working up quite a sweat in the heat of the day to make it to the top of the hill that leads to Fort Hamilton, we walked in to find that it was being set up for an event.  Everywhere across the main lawn were round tables being spread with white tablecloths, and red and white decorations lining the perimeter.  Of course, it’s the 4th of July.  We’d heard on the radio about dinner events being held here and there, this must have been one of them.  And by the looks of it, it was going to be fancy.  Our sweaty red faces did not fit in at all and we made beelines for the public restrooms to rinse them off.

Coming back into the blazing sun, Matt had found a long dark staircase that looked like it let to an underground tunnel, and we figured we could take rescue from the heat down there.

Fort Hamilton 2

 Image taken from here.

 

It did help to cool us a few degrees, but most importantly, took the sun off our faces.  Without a guide or any signs leading us, we blindly wandered through dim corridors until there was literally a light at the end of the tunnel.  This fort has a mote as well, we had crossed a bridge over it while entering.  But now it looks as if we had just found ourselves inside the moat, surrounded by incredibly tall stone walls in an area that had now been turned into a garden.

This is the point that I’m incredibly mad that I haven’t been able to recover any photos from my camera’s hard drive (Are they even there? My camera didn’t stop me from shooting w/o a memory card), because this place was like something you’d see in the movies.  Tall vines of ivy wound up the stone as they stretched for the sun, and exotic trees with head sized leafs and gnarly roots lined the dirt path as bright orange flowers bloomed on the tree across from you.  It was like a scene from Tomb Raider.  The late afternoon sun was transforming it into one of the most picturesque areas I’ve ever seen, and we could have spent the rest of the day in that one spot.

fort-hamilton moat

Doesn’t quite show the best parts of it, but you can get the idea.

Image taken from here.

 

Dragging ourselves topside once more after we walled the full circumference of the fort, we strolled the grounds a little longer as the 4th of July celebration continued to be assembled.  We climbed the stairs for close up looks at the mega sized cannons, stared down at the view of the bay below, and even contemplated playing a game of horseshoes that had been set up for the party that evening.  Following a different route out and admiring a few more gardens on the way, we decided to sneak one last look at the festivities being set up and wandered through the wide expanse now covered with fully set tables and awnings of red white and blue cloth.  Admiring what the $75 ticket price could buy you, according to the radio announcement, while walking back out we saw the catering companies notebook sitting on a table with the front sheet stating ‘David Clark’s 75th Birthday Celebration’.  Huh…??  This isn’t a public event…but a private party?  What the?!  Who do you have to know to pull those kinds of strings?  What kind of money do you have to have to pull off a celebration that’s better than any wedding we’ve seen…for your 75th birthday?  And most importantly…..can we come David?  Please!!!

Fort Hamilton 3

Fort Hamilton 1

Fort Hamilton 4

 Above images taken from here

 

Faced with the option of yet more walking around, we couldn’t bare the thought. Getting back down the hill and into town, we popped into a grocery store, somewhat just to see if prices were any cheaper here (They weren’t, it cost $5 for a 2 liter of Pepsi), but mostly to buy ourselves a cold pop so we could then bring them over to Queen Elizabeth Park and sit with them as we regained the ability to move our limbs.  This is a very beautiful park, named after Queen Elizabeth after her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, formerly named Par-la-Ville, after Bermuda’s first Postmaster’s home.

Under a very large tree with orange blooms at the center of the park, we sat and sipped our ice cold Cokes and watched the businessmen pass us by in their work attire of Bermuda shorts, tall socks, and blazers.  From restaurants just down the hill we could hear the World Cup being broadcast, patrons raising their bottles of beer in the air any time their team made a good play.

When I felt up to moving again, as Matt stayed on the bench and busied himself with our guidebook, I walked the grounds of the park and admired flowers, statues, and a very nice coy pond not too far from where we had been sitting.  I’ll say one thing for Bermuda.  Other than the extremely high cost of living that we could never afford, even as tourists on holidays, this country has yet to disappoint.  It is clean, the people are extremely friendly, and there are take your breath away sights everywhere you look.  Maybe that total lack of wind and the need for a break from drifting sailing was a blessing in disguise.  If I found out later how amazing this place was, and that we missed it, I could never forgive myself.

Par-la-ville park

Image taken from here.

par-le-villepark1

 Image taken from here.

Stephanie at Elizabeth Park

 Our friend Stephanie, walking up to Elizabeth Park, last year.

Image taken from s/v Rode Trip.

 

 

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This is No Vacation

Wednesday July 2, 2014

sunset St. George's Harbor, Bermuda

As much as I would like our time here in Bermuda to be all relaxing and rum drinks, unfortunately there is a lot of work to be done as well.  Since we did happen to land ourselves in an amazingly beautiful area that deserves lots of exploring though, we decided to break up our days and do off and on boat work versus having fun.

Yesterday I hauled our overflowing bag of dirty laundry to the laundromat.  Even though we’d basically been living in athletic gear the entire passage, wearing clothes for three days at a time before changing them out (although who’s going to complain about the smell?, it’s just us), we were kind of lax on some of our chores in Miami, and laundry fell to the bottom of the list.  Which meant that on top of the past three weeks of dirty clothing and bed sheets, we had about two weeks worth of clothes from before the passage to deal with as well.

While Matt tackled some minor projects back on the ‘Dip, I loaded myself down like pack mule with about twenty pounds of clothes, sheet, and blankets between two bags, and set out into town.  I had spied a laundromat the previous day on our little hike about the area, so at least I knew where to go before the extra weight could reduce me to a mess of tangled limbs and nylon bags in the street while trying to hunt one down.  I did find out that things are done a little differently here, and instead of just inserting coins into a machine, I had to spend $5 on a card to then load money onto, which then gets inserted into the machine and deducts from my balance.  Not really an ideal situation for someone who is only going to be here once, but I didn’t have many other options.*

Once all the clothes were in the middle of a rinse and repeat, I took off down the road to check out a few of the markets to gauge pricing in the area and we could see what kind of costs we might expect to fill our pantries again.  As soon as I stepped into the first market it became apparent that our pantries would remain at low until we reach the Azores.  In only looking for basic items, this is what I found we’d be paying.  Head of lettuce: $3.50; quart of milk: $2.50; pound of chicken: $7.50; loaf of bread: $5.00; 5 lb bag of rice: $10.  At least this means we’ll finally be able to go through all the items we provisioned for while heading to the Bahamas.  And I know for a fact that there’s a can of pear halves I bought in St. Augustine that still need to be eaten.

Today, which on our ‘schedule’ was supposed to be a fun day, kind of slipped into a work one.  After sleeping in entirely too late (I’m using the excuse that I’m still catching up on two weeks of sleep), I didn’t have much drive to get off the boat.  Once the coffee was made and enjoyed we were now into lunch time, and the prospect of exerting enough energy to get off the boat and do something enjoyable was too much.  The settee, a bowl of popcorn, and an afternoon matinee sounded much more appealing.  That’s not to say we could get away without doing some kind of work though, to allow ourselves two fun days in a row then.

Remember how I mentioned we got a little lax about a few projects back in Miami?  Cleaning the bottom of the boat was another one that kind of slipped through the cracks.  A bad one.  One of the last things you want when making a 3,000 mile journey is a bunch of barnacles on the bottom of your boat slowing you down after having spent one month sedentary in a hot tropical climate.  I’m pretty sure it took at minimum a half knot off our speed during this passage, and possibly up to one.  That bottom right now is nasty.  During one bored day on passage we actually put my camera in it’s waterproof case and shot video as we dunked the camera below the water line to see exactly what we were dealing with.  No wonder all those fish attached themselves to us like a reef…..we looked like one!

Probably due to the fact that every time Matt has gone about cleaning our bottom before and the project had taken him all of one hour, I thought that with the both of us working on it we could knock it out in 45 minutes and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing.  Sigh.  You silly, silly girl.

What happened in reality is I spent the next two and a half hours shriveling up like a prune in salt water while using muscles I haven’t used in quite a long time, and pushing myself to the limits on breath holding capabilities.  It was sad, really.  At the water line I was doing ok as long as I could hold on to something to keep the current from pushing me away from the boat.  But as soon as I tried to get the under body, my body would only allow me to stay down for three scrapes before scrambling back to the surface to gulp fresh air.

I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever pushed my body as hard as I did today while cleaning that bottom.  Even though I wanted to give up very early and make Matt finish the project himself, I stuck it out and cleaned one whole side myself.  I give major props to Matt for doing it himself every few months in the past, as well as anyone else out there who is stuck with this horrendous project.  Unless you’re like our friends Ren and Ashley who can hold their breath for five minutes at a time.

When I finally finished and was able to climb back on to the topside of Serendipity, I was like the living dead.  I could barley move, and bumped about the cabin in a zombie like state.  An immediate nap was in order, and now hours later, I am finally regaining the status of a normal conscious person.  Just in time to enjoy a glass of wine and this sunset.  So I guess it’s not all bad.

 

*My card was purchased back from the owner once he found out I was a sailor in for a one time visit.  He may have actually run the barber shop next door…….very nice guy.

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This Could be Paradise

Sunday June 30, 2014

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

I realized something a little strange this morning after waking up, making myself a cup of coffee, and sitting to savor it with my laptop resting on my legs while enjoying some top 40 tunes blast from the radio.  The luxury of being able to do all these things, after being deprived of them for the past 18 days, feels completely normal.  There’s no novelty (ok, maybe just a little bit) of making my morning mine, instead of waking up groggy and sitting on watch for the next for hours while trying to be as quiet as a mouse as not to disturb Matt while he sleeps.  The transition from passage to anchoring has been pretty seamless.

After saying that, let me tell you this.  We had no expectations of Bermuda upon arriving here. Or if we did, they weren’t very high. Neither of us had done any research on this island since we figured we’d never be visiting it, and the only knowledge I had of it was vaguely remembering bits and pieces from Brian and Stephanie’s visit here last year. We honestly expected it to be like the Bahamas. Dry, barren, and flat. You come for the water, but not for the land. Wow, we could not have been further from the truth. This island is amazingly beautiful, and we took a few hours today to explore the area around St. George, where we’re anchored.

Based on just a little bit of an internet connection that Matt was able to find us last night, I was able to look up and print a walking tour of the city to my desktop.  Reading through it I found this area is incredibly historic (of course, settled in 1609, it should be), an UNESCO World Heritage Site (woo hoo, another one checked off!), and had more than enough things to look at to keep us busy all day.  There were churches, town squares, museums, forts, beaches, and even a few restaurant recommendations where we could rest our weary feet at the end.  Yeah, like we can waste money on such frivolities.  Instead, I’d be hauling around a bag with a couple of sandwiches, granola bars, and a nalgene bottle full of water.

In true Jessica form, I managed to leave my sheet of copied ‘must see’ areas on the boat, and was forced to recount what I could from memory.  Sure we could still stumble upon whatever church or home was listed in the tour, but how could we look at it with the same kind of awe and reverence if we didn’t know who built it at what time, or exactly what purpose it stood?  Then I remembered we don’t always pay attention to those kinds of things anyway.  Normally just the year something was built, and most buildings should have plaques letting us know that information anyway.

The dinghy dock from St. George’s Harbor into town dropped us off right in the main town square, and just randomly picking a street right or left, we were drawn toward the brick paved allure of Water Street and proceeded to gape at the immaculate shops and restaurants that lined it.  Again, we were expecting an area that was to be just like the Bahamas, and unless you’re in an outrageously expensive resort there, all other areas tend to be a little run down and in need of some TLC.  This spot, however, was high class living, and just mere yards from where our boat was anchored out in the harbor.  No wonder all the hoity toity sailors of Newport, RI bring their boats here for holiday.

Water Street, St. George, Bermuda

 Finishing back out at the main road we pointed ourselves in the direction we had just come from, knowing that the beaches and forts were in that vicinity, and whatever else we passed along the way would just be a bonus.  We happened to stumble on a few bonuses, both in a religious background.  The first place we found was one of the major stops that had been listed on the walking tour, St. Peter’s Church.  We (I) may have left all information relating to this place back at the boat, but knowing their own importance, the church had plaques plastered from one end to the other, giving a full history.  Among many other interesting facts, we learned that this church was built in 1612 and is the oldest Anglican Church in the western hemisphere.  You could almost get a sense of early settlers attending service here, and I had a good time searching the grounds on the cemetery for the oldest headstone I could find.

Next on our walking tour to the beach was Bermuda’s Unfinished Church.  Getting back to our guide tonight I found out this church was started back in the 1870′s when St. Peter’s Church was damaged in a storm, and then gave me a link to click on to find out why it was never completed.  Thanks for the required 3G data plan to get any information, walking guide, I don’t have internet anymore! (I’ve now gone back and researched and found out it was likely not finished due to the local population wanting to repair the old church instead of building a new one.  This was decided half way through the build of the new one)  Having just walked up a decent sized hill in the blazing heat to get here, we used it as a resting spot to sit for a minute and down some water.  I wanted to get a few photos in front of it, but a (American) family that was doing the same thing never got the hint that I was patiently waiting my turn for a photo in front of it without them in the background, and ten minutes later I finally gave up and went around to the side, where I feel like I got an even better background.

St. Peter's Church, St. George, Bermuda

St. Peter's Church, Bermuda

unfinished church, St. George, Bermuda

Jessica & unfinished church, Bermuda

 Further up the road we continued to follow the signs for Tabacco Bay Beach, the only real goal of the day, where we were sent through a narrow street shaded by tall trees with meadows off to our side.  Seriously, this place just keeps getting better.  And waiting for us at the end of the road was this view of Tabacco Bay.

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

Definitely not what we had been expecting.  Pretty much running toward this oasis now we skirted through past all the tourist laying out on the beach and directly up to the rocks behind it.  The views here were amazing and we could have spent the rest of the day staring into the bay and the waters past it.  Families snorkeled through the shallow waters, while some of the parents waded through the bath like water with extremely expensive cocktails in their hand.  We heard one man tell his wife, who almost tripped while sifting through the water with a margarita in her hand, “Good thing you didn’t drop that, it could have been a $15 mistake”.  Now you can see why we packed our own lunch.

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

Matt at Tabacco Bay

 After our time spent staring out at the ocean, as if we haven’t had enough of that already, it was time to check out a few forts.  Just around the corner from Tabacco Bay is probably one of the more famous ones of the area, Fort St. Catherine.  At the time we were already getting a little worn out and didn’t feel like paying for the guided tour through it, but here’s what I found out about it when I was able to get a little internet again.  Originally built in 1614 for the purpose of defending from Spanish attacks, it has now been renovated at least five times.  The fort is surrounded by a dry moat and accessed by a drawbridge.  Which we actually did get a chance to walk over while checking out the outskirts of the fort, pretty cool.  Right next to the fort is St. Catherine’s Beach, another popular spot for those who don’t want to be packed into the tight quarters at Tabacco Bay Beach.

Fort St. Catherine, Bermuda

Even though we were starting to get a little tired by this point, from not having this much exercise in almost three weeks now, we stopped at a few more smaller forts that littered the coastline on our way back.  I swear, these things are everywhere on the island.  How often was this place under attack?

One of the forts that held a few impressive guns and cannons was becoming overrun with a group of school kids that arrived at the same time we did, so after checking out a few things here and there, we let them have full run of the place.  It’s nice to see kids actually get excited about a piece of history, and we didn’t want to get in their way.

The next one on the list was Gates Fort, which we had viewed from the water yesterday upon entering the cut into the harbor.  It’s a small little place, two stories high, but only about 150 sq feet on each floor.  There’s a small paved area in front with a short wall coming up two cannons facing out to sea.  I don’t know what it was about this place, but Matt fell in love with it.  As a potential home.  We literally spent 30 minutes as he wandered around talking about how we could decorate, keeping all of the current walls as not to tear down a part of history, but then adding to the top floor, combining wood and stone for a modern feel.  There would be tall glass windows giving 360 degree views, and we already had a ‘patio’ built that would only need an awning or some kind of sun protection.  It would be more than enough space for the two of us to live in, as even just one floor would give us more than we currently have.

I think he might be on to something here.  Now we just need to get into talks with the Bermudian government and take some very large donations from you readers to make this happen.

Matt in Bermudian fort

Just a little to the left.

Bermudian fort, entrance St. George's Harbor

 Visibly exhausted after only three hours of walking around, and with blisters already beginning to form, we followed the road back toward town, ready to hop on the dinghy and pass out on Serendipity for the rest of the afternoon.  One last treat in store for us though was the view of the harbor as we were coming back down the hill.  All the sailboats dotting the water with the historic town as the backdrop was almost postcard perfect.  So I took a photo to hopefully turn into one.  You can even make out Serendipity in it, to the far left.

Serendipity in St. George's Harbor, Bermuda

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Atlantic Crossing Days 16-18: Houston, We Have a Pit Stop

Sunday June 30, 2014

anchorage St. George Bermuda

I’m just going to roll this all into one post instead of segregating each day, since I’ve kind of been stretching it lately trying to find something new to talk about every day. I’m starting to get to the point where if I don’t write down 1-2 short sentences of what happened the previous day, I can’t remember anything specific about it. Seriously. If you asked me exactly what happened on Friday my answer would be ‘Ummm…?’. I do know that there are three interesting things that have happened in that many days though.

1.) In getting ourselves within about 150-200 miles off the coast of Bermuda, we’ve begun to pick up their radio broadcasts on our VHF. Wow, ridiculously strong signal! We started to lose broadcasts from the US Coast Guard and NOAA about 60 miles off shore. It’s been nice hearing another live voice again that doesn’t belong to either of us, and it’s also super cute hearing those voices in British or slightly Scottish accents. All I can say is, these guys really watch the waters that surround them. You’re supposed to check in with them once you’re within 35 miles or so of shore, and if you get too close without calling in, they will call you.

Multiple times we heard a call go out from Bermuda Radio that would follow something like this: Vessel approximately 9 miles NE of St. George’s Harbor, traveling at a speed of 7.6 knots on a course of 182 degrees, this is Bermuda Radio, how do you respond? They know everything that’s moving out there. If you have an AIS transciever, they’ll hunt you down by name until you respond. Not planning on stopping there ourselves, we wondered if we’d ever get a call from them if we came too close. Vessel, or sea log, approximately 25 miles SW of Bermuda, drifting at a pace of 1.6 knots on a course of 78 degrees, this is Bermuda Radio, how do you respond?

Another thing we were able to pick up from them once we got a little bit closer is their daily weather report, which was broadcast on channel 27 about 3-4 times a day. It may have only covered an area with a diameter of 20 miles from Bermuda, but it was still nice to have yet another source confirming that we could continue to expect the 8-12 knots of wind we’ve been receiving. It also gives us…drumroll…the forecast from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Which leads us to our next interesting item.

2. Guess what? There’s something brewing out there. A tropical storm at the moment, but based on the reports we’ve been getting from NHC and Bermuda radio, the chance that it will develop into a hurricane is growing every day. We’ve seen it on our Weather Fax reports and have been watching it for some days now. From it’s predicted path, it won’t be veering out into the ocean anywhere in our vicinity, but we did enlist my dad to keep a close eye on it and let us know if it’s course changed and we should duck into Bermuda to ride it out, or just be safe if it looked unpredictable of where it might end up.

3. Even though this tropical storm shouldn’t be coming near us, we went to Bermuda anyway. In talking to my dad, even though the tropical storm status had yet to grow into hurricane, I personally didn’t feel comfortable being on the water with it out there. And more importantly, I wasn’t comfortable with what my mental status might become if we continued on. When day 18 at sea begun, I threw in the towel. We were steadily headed toward a 45 day crossing without a break, and I couldn’t take it anymore. The calm seas and comfortable ride, I could handle that. Our slow and steady pace of 2.5-3.0 knots, I could actually handle as well. The constant, never ending racket of the sails slamming in and out, all the hardware on our boom clanking and banging, all day and all night, that I could not take anymore.

When Matt and I were doing our shift change at 4 am this morning, I kind of nonchalantly mentioned, “We’re still about 43 miles from the entrance to St. George’s Harbor right now, if we want any chance of making it there by nightfall I think we’re going to have to turn on the engine”. He just kind of looked back at me like ‘Oh, so we’re actually stopping then?’. I think he was somewhat excited at the prospect of a 45 day passage. Like some kind of right of passage into long distance cruising. ‘How long was your longest passage? 32 days? Wow, that’s a pretty long run. We had 44′. Secretly, I kind of wanted to be able to say that too. Even though it probably would cement us as the worst cruisers ever, a testament of how not to sail across an ocean.

Once we were both up for the day it was time to put the boat back together and make her presentable for any customs and immigration that might come aboard. Thankfully, not only was she cleaner than any of our previous passages because we’ve been able to easily move about the boat without getting sick, and have for the most part picked up after ourselves everyday (you should have seen the mess we accumulated on our 2.5 day sail to Jamaica), but it was calm enough to have no problem really scrubbing her clean. Dirty sheets were tossed in the laundry, the cabin floor was swept, and the counters were 409′ed. The cockpit was rinsed and scrubbed, and many items were stuck out on deck to air. Plus, a big plus actually, is that with the 1-2 ft seas, it wasn’t a terrifying ordeal to haul our 55 lb Rocna anchor up on deck and secured to the bow again.

When we were about 15 miles out and were just starting to make out land on the horizon, a terrible storm came rolling in over us. I could see it from miles away, working it’s way toward us, and soon there was nothing but black sitting between us and Bermuda. I even heard a call on the VHF to Bermuda Radio that someone had spotted a waterspout.  Luckily all that ever came of it was a good fresh water rinse for the boat and some 20-25 knot winds.  We were soon back to cleaning, and all darkness was quickly behind us.  The sun was brightly shining in the sky and Bermuda was in full view.  By this time we had already gone through the process of checking in with Bermuda Radio, who required all kinds of information, like the brand of our life raft, our satellite phone number and the ID off our EPIRB.  I guess most of this can be done online before you get there, but we had never been planning on stopping.

Pulling into the actual harbor around 5:30 in the afternoon, we were given instructions to make our way to the dock for customs and immigration.  The officer was very friendly, but a little concerned as soon as he found out we had a cat on board.  Even though we’d just gone through so much work in Florida getting all the necessary paperwork required for the EU, it wasn’t good enough for Bermuda, we needed one specific to them.  However, they told us that if we were willing to anchor out and never bring her to shore, they’d pretend she didn’t exist.  Fine by us, we prefer to be at anchor anyway.  The rest of the paperwork took less than 10 minutes, and after handing over our $35/person and getting our passports stamped, we were cleared in and ready to relax.

I have to say, this is one of the best landfalls we’ve ever made.  Possibly because we haven’t seen land in over 17 days now, but sigh, just the sights and sounds.  Immediately we could hear gospel music ringing out from the churches as we happened to have come in during evening mass.  The hills were alive with the chirp of crickets, and scents of floral blossoms wafted out onto the water.  Pouring myself a glass of wine, something I didn’t allow myself to do on passage, I watched the sun go down and looked forward to my first full night of sleep in 18 days.

storm over Bermuda

St. George, Bermuda

 

*Ok, there’s actually 4. For the past few nights I’ve seen what looks like a very bright star, possibly a planet, that has been coming up just before sunrise, around 65 degrees ENE. The interesting thing about it, or should I say strange, or downright freaky, is that it fades in and out. I’m not even joking. One moment it will be so bright that it’s casting a reflection on the water, the next moment it’s gone. I had thought it was weird, but just chalked it up to low lying clouds blocking it out at times. But then last night, the sky was covered with clouds to the point that you couldn’t make out any stars near the horizon (where I always see it), yet the light was still there, fading in and out. WTF?!

A possible lighthouse? I don’t think so, I’ve seen it four nights in a row now. Plus there’s been nothing showing on our charts about being in that area. It’s still east of Bermuda, so it has nothing to do with that. I’m so glad I can sleep through the darkness in an anchorage tonight and not have to worry about strange lights appearing on the horizon.

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